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Leap Second

The adjustment between Atomic & Earth Time

UTC and time scales

The Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC) replaced Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the reference time scale derived from The Temps Atomique International (TAI) calculated by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) in Paris, France using a worldwide network of atomic clocks. UTC differs from TAI by an integer number of seconds; it is the basis of all activities in the world.

UT1 is the time scale based on the observation of the Earth's rotation. It is now derived from Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). The various irregular fluctuations progressively detected in the rotation rate of the Earth led in 1972 to the replacement of UT1 as the reference time scale . However, it was desired by the scientific community to maintain the difference UT1-UTC smaller than 0.9 second to ensure agreement between the physical and astronomical time scales.

Since the adoption of this system in 1972, firstly due to the initial choice of the value of the second (1/86400 mean solar day of the year 1900) and secondly to the general slowing down of the Earth's rotation, it has been necessary to add 21s to UTC.

The decision to introduce a leap second in UTC is the responsibility of the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS).

According to international agreements, first preference is given to the opportunities at the end of December and June, and second preference to those at the end of March and September. Since the system was introduced in 1972, only dates in June and December have been used.

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